How Western Domination Has Undermined Haiti's Ability to Recover from Natural Devastation
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AMY GOODMAN: I’m standing here near the airport in Port-au-Prince. I can’t exactly say my feet are firmly planted on the ground, because this morning, just about 6:00, here in Port-au-Prince, we were in our room and just getting ready to leave for this broadcast, and the earth started to tremble. The floor, the walls, you feel the shake. It is that moment of just extreme panic when everyone in the house, everyone, starts running for their lives out of the house, making their way through rooms, jumping over—holding whatever it was you were holding at that moment. Outside, people hold each other, they weep, or they just breathe a sigh of relief. Although, not really, because you never know when the next aftershock will happen.
And while our house still stood, what about others? Sometimes the earthquake, which destroyed so much of Haiti, can leave a house standing, but it only takes a lesser aftershock to take it down. So who got hurt this morning? Who was lost in the rubble? These are the questions we have every day.
And as we walk down the streets of Port-au-Prince, seeing the bodies, the smell, the stench of death everywhere. Yesterday the hospital, across the street, the main pharmacy, where patients, where doctors go to get their drugs, is pancaked, is total rubble. And it was many floors. People were standing by. The way you know perhaps where bodies are buried—a pharmacist, a doctor, a nurse, a patient who had come over, a customer—is you see the flies swarming over areas.
There was a man laying on the street just across from the General Hospital. And then when we looked carefully in the rubble, we could see another’s head, and we could see the fingers that—curling over a board, as if the person was trying to get out. This is the face of Haiti.
But right now we’re joined by Kim Ives. We’ve been traveling together. Kim writes for Haiti Liberté , and he has been working with us through this week. He has been living in Haiti for years, in and out, traveling in and out.
Kim, I can’t say, “Welcome to Democracy Now! ” since you’ve been with us all through this trip, but welcome to the broadcast of Democracy Now!
KIM IVES: Thanks, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s talk about this major catastrophe, this devastation. Now, of course, it’s a natural catastrophe, but can you talk about how this catastrophe fits into Haiti? The level of destruction we’re seeing today is not just about nature.
KIM IVES: No, not at all. In fact, this earthquake was preceded by a political and economic earthquake with an epicenter 2,000 miles north of here, in Washington, DC, over the past twenty-four years.
We can say, first of all, there was the case of the two coups d’états held in the space of thirteen years, in ’91 and 2004, which were backed by the United States. They put in their own client regimes, which the Haitian people chased out of power. But these coups d’états and subsequent occupations, foreign military occupations, in a country whose constitution forbids that, were fundamentally destructive, not just to the national government and its national programs, but also to the local governments or the parliaments, the mayors’ offices and also the local assemblies, which would elect a permanent electoral council. That permanent electoral council has never been made—it’s a provisional—and hence Préval, and just before the earthquake, was running roughshod over popular democracy by putting his own electoral council in place, provisional, and they were bringing him and his party to domination of the political scene.